ISLAMABAD – Special Assistance to prime minister for Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi has said that Pakistan has always expressed its keen desire to build deeper trade and economic linkages with South East Asian countries and ASEAN.
Addressing 21st ministerial meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Nay Pyi Taw, the capital of Myanmar, said that Pakistan was committed to promoting relations with ASEAN and the South East Asian economies to eventually achieve full dialogue partnership status with ASEAN.
“We urge all members of ASEAN to support our case for full dialogue partnership,” he said, adding Pakistan was the oldest sectoral dialogue partner with ASEAN whose full dialogue partnership has been put on hold since 1993. He said that Pakistan also called for the peaceful resolution, through friendly dialogue, of differences relating South China Sea, so that peace and stability in this important region was not disturbed.
Fatemi said that Pakistan also supported the sentiments of the member countries to convey deep sense of grief, anguish and distress over the current violence and aggression in Gaza. He said with a view to stop the bloodshed, Pakistan has strongly condemned Israeli aggression and expressed solidarity with the Palestinians. He emphasised the need for early resolution of the Middle East conflict in a just and equitable manner, in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions.
Commenting on situation in Iraq, he said it has become a matter of deep concern to all of the countries adding that the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate. “We strongly feel that the only viable option is engagement in dialogue and we are apprehensive that if the conflict is allowed to fester, this could lead to extreme regional instability, particularly a sectarian conflagration, with unbearable consequences,” he added.
Fatemi said history has provided an opportunity to convert the 21st century into a truly Asian century by avoiding new conflicts and resolving the old ones. "ARF is an important instrument to realize this objective and we need to harness the potential this organization and its membership to harmonize our collective response towards increasing regional cooperation and security environment through dialogue and diplomacy,” he said.
After arriving in Nay Pyi Taw, Tariq Fatemi attended a welcoming dinner hosted by Myanmar Foreign Affairs Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin last night. He held warm and cordial exchanges with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, the EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton and a host of other visiting foreign ministers and heads of delegations.
In all these exchanges, the special assistant raised issues of interest to Pakistan, including bilateral matters and the regional situation. In his meeting with Secretary Kerry, the special assistant also drew the secretary’s attention to the deep pain and anguish caused to the Muslim world on account of the Israeli military operations in Gaza.